How We Roll, May 2: is L.A. still cartopia or cartopia lite?

Things to listen to whilst transiting: The Judge John Hodgman has an all-car related docket in a new episode that just posted — and one case involves vanity plates in the 415 apparently. It will probably be funny, albeit not as much of a bellybuster as the JJHo case involving yours truly. Another recent case involves a 16-year-old who wants his parents to sell his KIA and get him a motorcycle and a vape pen. You can guess the verdict.

Art of Transit: 

Nice colors the other day at the New Millennium Sports Barber Shop on Crenshaw Boulevard. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Nice colors the other day at the New Millennium Sports Barber Shop on Crenshaw Boulevard. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A warmer, fuzzier Los Angeles (NYT)

The bridge over Venice Boulevard unfamiliar to David Ulin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The bridge over Venice Boulevard unfamiliar to David Ulin. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The former book section editor of a certain local newspaper is driving down Venice Boulevard and gets disoriented — he’s not use to seeing that new Expo Line bridge soaring over the street. And that prompts this meditation of sorts on what it means for our region now that the Expo extension to Santa Monica is about to open.

Ulin concludes:

Certainly, Los Angeles will always be a city of the car. But it may also become, is becoming, a city of the walker, of the rider, in which the streets are not only a terrain we pass through, but also one we actively share. Regardless of what the Expo Line ultimately does or doesn’t do for traffic, this is, I think, the essence of what it offers: the notion of Los Angeles as a space we occupy together, collective and evolving, where in the act of getting lost, as I discovered on Venice Boulevard, we may also unexpectedly be found.

This is a really good article and I encourage you to read it. The Expo Line on its route from DTLA to SaMo passes through a lot of terrain. As for roads being shared by something not a car, I’d say that SaMo is the most vivid example of that. But I think it’s worth considering, too, that Expo does something else I think is important and good: it connects neighborhoods south of the 10 freeway — the Great Wall of L.A., IMHO — with neighborhoods north of the freeway.

L.A. urged to give priority to trains over cars (LA Weekly)

Speaking of Expo…A follow-up by Gene Maddaus to his original article about traffic signal pre-emption (or lack thereof) for trains along the Expo alignment.

Hundreds of L.A. bus shelters go unbuilt (KPCC)

A Metro bus stop sans shelter on Western Avenue in South L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

A Metro bus stop sans shelter on Western Avenue in South L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The investigative piece focuses on a contract between the city of Los Angeles and CBS Decaux, which was originally signed in 2001. The agreement called upon the firm to install 1,000-plus bus shelters over two decades in exchange for the right to place advertising on them.

What happened? Well, it’s not really crystal clear  — the gist of it seems to be the city was slow in permitting many of the new bus shelters out of concerns for visual blight and too much outdoor advertising. Hint: the graphic is best viewed in a new window. It shows the percentage of shelters that were permitted that actually got built. The numbers are mixed: some low-income transit dependent neighborhoods saw a majority of shelters built, whereas other similar areas certainly did not.

Whatever the reason, this is certainly a complaint we hear a lot, especially in the past few years when temperatures have often soared outside of summer. It’s a tough issue as the way things stand now, Metro provides the bus service and the cities most often control the bus stops.

One other thought: I think the comfort of riders trumps concerns about advertising-oriented blight. That said, there’s some context here: the city of L.A. has historically been a lot more concerned with the needs of the outdoor advertising industry — that’s why billboards are so prolific in LaLaLand. Readers of a Certain Age will remember A) the time when reporters found that many billboards in the city lacked permits, and; B) a former city attorney who had wee interest in doing anything about it.

Quantifying transit ridership, some lessons from UCLA’s transit conference (Streetsblog LA)

A good hard look at ridership through the lens of two academic studies. From one of them:

Manville pointed out that, despite overall U.S. transit service nearly tripling between 1970 and 2013, overall ridership has remained flat. In 1970, Americans took 0.68 trips per person per week. That number remains level over the following decades: 1980/0.72; 1990/0.68; 2000/0.64; 2004/0.64; and in 2013/0.65.

Per Manville, from 2004 through 2013, 77 urban areas experienced a decline in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). In those areas, only 36 saw a rise in transit usage. Further decoupling transit increases from driving declines, transit use rose by a greater amount in 13 other urban areas where driving did not decline. Manville cautions that overall transit ridership is very concentrated in a small number of areas. Greater New York City accounts for a third of U.S. transit ridership. Sixty percent of transit ridership is concentrated in just five urban areas: NYC, L.A., Chicago, Washington D.C., and S.F.

The takeaways? 1) As Joe Linton suggests, it’s doubtful that investments in transit have come anywhere near the investments in driving across the U.S. 2) Transit in areas where home and job density is high work best (hardly a surprise). 3) Driving will remain popular as long as it’s affordable.

Metro posts is monthly ridership estimates here.

Why a historic road that united California’s two halves may never reopen (LAT)

So what if it never reopens? You can still hike it and there’s no compelling reason it should be reopened. Nonetheless, an interesting read about the old Ridge Route, the old two lane highway between Santa Clarita and the San Joaquin Valley that spanned the Tejon Pass area. The video neatly sums up the story for those who are word averse.

Where your cash fare goes at [Twin Cities] Metro Transit (Metro Transit)

First posted online in late 2015 but this is the first time I’ve seen it and the sound of coins dropping is weirdly soothing.

11 replies

  1. I have a major beef with the bus benches and bus shelters in LA. A while back, perhaps around 2000 or so, the LA City Council passed an ordinance requiring that all street furniture in LA be the same color green – sort of an olive green color. This was because there was a hodgepodge of street furniture, mailboxes, bus shelters, signs, etc that were all different styles and colors.

    Well, the subsequent contract for bus benches and shelters (replacing the old tan bus benches) had the right intentions, also using green. But they used the wrong shade of green!!!! Totally inept. Now we have regular street furniture that is one shade (olive green) and bus benches/shelters that are a different style and use a tackier shade of green. They don’t match.

    What happened here, and why am I the only person who seems to notice or care about this?!?

  2. Forget the lack of shade.
    We don’t have any bus benches, or grossly inadequate benches, at many of the most congested bustops‼️
    Recently, I advised a Los Angeles Metro bus driver, that benches needed desperately (particularly, as many Seniors have much pain, standing for long periods, often one hour+).
    This Los Angeles bus driver then directed me, to find the maintenance phone number on a bench, and to call it to beg for any more.
    He said he had NO IDEA why there aren’t benches & how they can be obtained by Metro. I’ve called METRO before & was curtly told, they don’t provide any benches.

    At Wilshire/La Cienega, busiest Los Angeles intersection, the bus bench seating is horribly inadequate. Often, 30+ people are standing, including many seniors, for 30-60 minutes+. Busses are often delayed

    • Hi Kim;

      The problem is that for the most part, it’s up to cities where bus stops are located to provide benches and/or shelters. It may be better if you contacted you’re representative on the City Council in the city where you live.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. When I lived in LA, 1956-71, transit use was disreputable, low class, a point of embarrassment, something you didn’t confess at a party. It was associated with lack of money, and in turn with moral failure.
    Will that attitude ever change?

  4. What if every time you wanted to use your car you had to stand in the sun for 20+ minutes first or your car wouldn’t start? I bet a lot fewer people would be driving!

    This is the lamentable condition that many of Metro’s customers find themselves in. It has to change. I believe Metro needs to do more to facilitate the construction of bus shelters even though the cities permit them.

    You can’t say with a straight face that you care about increasing transit ridership and then expect people to bake while they wait for their bus. 3/4 of you ridership is still through the bus system.

    • That’s a ridiculous statement. Taking a bus instead of a car, or vice versa, is a tradeoff. So you wouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes to start your car because the tradeoff is you’re getting the immediate gratification of driving by purchasing a car, gas, up keep, insurance, etc. And the tradeoff for taking the bus is spending a lot less money but having a loss of control, waiting more, etc. You can help yourself in certain situations by always bring an umbrella in case of rain or standing for 20 minutes in the sun.

  5. One of the biggest gripes blue line riders have is the lack of signal preemption for the Long Beach portion of the blue line. The LA Weekly articles implies that all it takes to implement is an agreement between the city (Santa Monica in this case) and LADOT. Is there more to this process? I can’t imagine the 20+ years of sloggy movement in the LB trains is due to a simple lack of agreement between Long Beach and LADOT. How many years of study does it typically take to consider signal preemption?

    • No agreement is necessary between cities. The city just has to work with Metro to allow the trains to preempt the traffic signals. Santa Monica agrees to the arrangement, LADOT (or the city council) doesn’t. Based on your gripe I assume that Long Beach also doesn’t allow signal preemption for the Blue Line trains.

    • For LA, don’t complain to LADOT.
      Hound Mayor Garcetti ( , @ericgarcetti , @MayorOfLA ) . He is an MTA board member. The head of LADOT (Seleta Reynolds, , @LADOTofficial ) serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. If Garcetti wants it done, it will happen. If he wants it to happen quickly it will.